Salt Lake City has scored a coup of sorts by landing a weeklong Japanese travel agency's promotional event expected to draw 1,500 Japanese tourists to Utah next spring.
Five representatives from Nippon Travel Agency Pacific were in Salt Lake City this week beginning preparations for the event, "America-Japan Week," after picking Salt Lake City from a list of cities including Boston, Newport Beach, Calif., Atlanta and San Francisco, said Jennie Smith, marketing director with the Utah Travel Council."Utah is a very friendly state for Japanese people," said Ted T. Koda, director of marketing with Nippon Travel, noting the large number of Japanese-speaking people in the state and its family atmosphere.
This will be the sixth year that Nippon Travel has sponsored such an international exchange tour. In past years, locations have included Amsterdam, Netherlands; Florence, Italy; Hamburg, West Germany; Marseille, France; and Glasgow, Scotland. Salt Lake City is the first U.S. site to be selected.
As part of the exchange, Nippon Travel will import Japanese dancers, a troupe of folk performers, a group that performs the traditional tea ceremony, and possibly karate and judo athletes. Preliminary plans call for a parade and exhibitions between May 22 and June 2, 1991.
A member of the Japanese Diet will meet with Gov. Norm Bangerter in August to officially proclaim "America-Japan Week," Koda said.
In return for the promised influx of visitors, Utah has agreed to provide space in the Salt Palace, Symphony Hall and Capitol Theatre. At the same time, Utahns will be able to share American culture in some still unplanned ways. A homestay program with Utahns isn't anticipated.
Koda said that Japanese have an avid interest in baseball, so that might result in a day at the ballpark watching the Trappers. It may also mean some side trips to view the vistas of southern Utah, which have become popular with Japanese tourists in recent years.
Smith said that part of the reason that Nippon Travel Agency, which accounts for about 85 percent of Japan's travel market, chose Salt Lake City was because of previous promotions with Utah, which maintains an office in Tokyo. Last year, the state created the promotion of "Route 89" that drew tourists from Yellowstone to Las Vegas.
Koda said that Salt Lake City's reputation as a clean city with a low crime rate and emphasis on family were also drawing cards.